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Houston, We Have a Problem: 4,507,059 Hours of Traffic

Friday, September 03, 2010

flickr: kalebdf

(Houston, TX - Wendy Siegle, KUHF NewsLab) Frankly, driving around Houston can be a nightmare. Resistance to mass transit infrastructure has taken its toll, and earlier this year Forbes ranked the petro-metro as the eighth worst place to commute. In more recent news, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) went even further in measuring extreme gridlock this week by ranking the state’s most congested roadways.

For the thousands of Houstonians who sluggishly commute along Interstate 45 each day, they don’t need TxDOT to tell them they’ve got a pretty crappy deal. But commuters may feel relieved that their chock-a-block freeway is finally getting the recognition it deserves. According to TxDOT’s list, the stretch of I-45 from Beltway 8 North to Loop 610 reigns victorious at number one. State officials say the total annual hours of delay comes to 4,507,059; that’s 484,630 hours per mile. TxDOT even worked out the annual cost of the delay – a whopping $98.03 million.

But I-45, you’re not alone. Five of the top ten most backed up roadways in Texas are located in Houston’s home county, Harris. Nine made the top 20. Pardon the hackneyed phrase, but Houston, we most definitely have a problem.

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Transportation Nation

Moving Stories: GM wants 'range anxiety,' CA debates CO2 laws, Texas' worst traffic

Thursday, September 02, 2010

GM seeking to trademark "range anxiety."  But will they build electric vehicles to beat it? (NY Times)

Greenhouse gas laws are part of debate for Boxer's Senate seat in California (KPCC)

Texas puts out list of its most-congested roads.  I-45 in Houston, you're tops! (Houston Chronicle)

Bombardier awarded $267 million contract for New Jersey Transit train cars (AP)

Train-stealing fanatic arrested for 27th time in NYC.  This time, it's a bus.  (NY Daily News)

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Transportation Nation

Life Inside China's 60-Mile, 11-Day Traffic Jam

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Traffic jam in Beijing (Flickr: johnmcga)

(The Takeaway)  For nearly two weeks, a stretch of highway outside Beijing saw monster gridlock, which stretched out over sixty miles and trapped drivers on China's National Highway 110 for days. It had been expected to last until mid-September, but last Thursday, after eleven days, the traffic jam suddenly broke.

Many people, of course, are wondering: Where did it go? How did it start? And could this kind of jam happen again?

The Takeaway spoke this morning with David Schrank, co-author of the Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute. He and his colleagues watched the Chinese traffic jam closely, and have been consulting traffic institutes in China on how to manage their road congestion in the future.

You'll also hear the voice of Zhang Lijia, a freelance journalist in Beijing who was trapped in the traffic jam for eleven hours.

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The Takeaway

Traffic Jams and China's 60-Mile, 11-Day Gridlock

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

For nearly two weeks, a stretch of highway outside Beijing saw monster gridlock, which stretched out over sixty miles and trapped drivers on China's National Highway 110 for days. It had been expected to last until mid-September, but last Thursday, after eleven days, the traffic jam suddenly broke.

Many people, of course, are wondering: Where did it go? How did it start? And could this kind of jam happen again?

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Transportation Nation

Denver Finally Doesn't Have to Drive to the Airport (in 2016)

Friday, August 27, 2010

(Denver, CO - Nathan Heffel, Transportation Nation)  With the wave of a yellow and orange flag, Mayor John Hickenlooper initiated the beginning of the end.  Denver's airport, which landed in the middle of the mountains 15 years ago, will no longer be only a long drive from downtown.

The flag wave was followed by a groundbreaking Thursday, as six earth movers began digging the path of a rail project, which will link Denver International Airport with downtown.

As we rode a shuttle bus for press and dignitaries out to the event, a fellow rider said, "I remember coming out here in the early 90’s for the groundbreaking ceremony for the airport.  I remember the tumbleweeds and the heat! It was so far from the city we wondered if the airport would even be viable.”

Fast forward 15 years: the airport, which many considered too big to sustain and too far from Denver to be practical (it's 24 miles from downtown), is now the ninth busiest airport in the world, with over 50 million passengers traveling through it a year.

Called the "$22 billion dollar economic engine of the Front Range" by Mayor Hickenlooper, the only way to get to DIA has been by car.   However, after years of planning, RTD is now building the $1 billion dollar East Corridor commuter rail line, which will link DIA to Denver’s Union Station, the hub of RTD’s FasTracks system. 

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Transportation Nation

New York: A Scooter Perspective

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

(New York, NY - Jim Colgan, WNYC) If you think you’re seeing more people on scooters this summer, you’re probably right. The number of two-wheeled vehicles registered in New York State continues to increase each year at a higher rate than in most other big states. That's according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Scooter users say it’s the easiest way to navigate the city, and it burns far less gas than a car. But while the two-wheelers may turn heads on city streets, riders say they don’t get much respect.

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Transportation Nation

Northern Va. Drivers In For Long, Hard Slog After Army's Realignment

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

(Washington, DC - David Schultz, WAMU News)  Next year, the Army will relocate hundreds of thousands of its employees as a part of its Base Realignment and Closure - or BRAC - process. The idea behind the process is to close under-utilized facilities and moves its employees to areas that make more strategic - and economic - sense.

Closing military bases is always political poison, especially for the Congressmen whose districts contain those bases. So the Department of Defense got around this by submitting to Congress an enormous list of bases it wants to close. This way, rather than voting on each base closure one by one, the Congressman could cast a single up-or-down vote on the list - which it did back in 2005.

But, just so there wouldn't be any room for political maneuvering, the Department of Defense also inserted a hard deadline in the BRAC legislation. All the closures and relocations would have to be completed by September 2011. No exceptions.

Local politicians in Northern Virginia really wish that deadline hadn't been included.

No area in the country is more affected by the BRAC process than Washington D.C.'s Virginia suburbs.

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Transportation Nation

Moving Stories: Biden backs autoworkers, Texas traffic fatalities drop, Rendell: raise taxes, fees

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Biden tells Ohio auto workers industry will thrive‎ (AP)

Texas traffic fatalities down 11 percent in 2009‎ (Houston Chronicle)

One effort to halt CA high-speed rail over environmental, ridership concerns fails (San Mateo Daily News)

Rendell watch: Raise motor vehicle fees, tax oil profits for $1B road, bridge and transit fund (Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Transportation Nation

Major Brooklyn Artery To Be Narrowed for Arena Construction

Friday, August 20, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) In New York City this week, Brooklyn residents have been getting a mailer from Forest City Ratner, the developer of the new Nets stadium and mega-building complex near what's called the "crossroads of Brooklyn," Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. The mailer tells the residents that Flatbush Avenue, a major thoroughfare that connects the Manhattan Bridge to the Atlantic Ocean, will be reduced from six lanes to five until the summer of 2012 for a block at that crucial intersection.

The stadium project was approved only after a prolonged controversy. The mailer seeks to soften the blow by positing that the road closure is to make subway improvements.

We're working getting a traffic analysis, but transpo experts, if you're out there, let us know what you think in the comments page.

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Transportation Nation

Bison Jams, Old Faithful and Cars: How do you Ease Traffic in Nature?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

(Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio)  Yellowstone National Park may seem crowded with tourists in their cars, pick-ups and recreational vehicles. They fill the roads and destination parking lots, like Old Faithful. But park officials say the roads and developed areas take up only 1% of the entire park which remains an intact ecosystem full of grizzlies, wolves, bison, elk and other flora and fauna.

"These are scenic drives. They are not transit opportunities," says Eleanor Clark, Yellowstone's chief of comprehensive planning.

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Transportation Nation

Men, Not Taxis, Are Most Likely to Hit NYC Pedestrians

Monday, August 16, 2010

(New York, NY - Collin Campbell)  Five years of data and 7,000 crash records are showing a rich picture of collisions between pedestrians and cars in New York City.  They're at the lowest point in recorded history, the Bloomberg Administration says, and the analysis released today may inform policy decisions to push them lower.

Among the findings from the mayor's announcement today:

•    Male drivers are involved in 80% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians.  They're only 57% of registered drivers in New York City.
•    Private vehicles – not taxis, trucks or buses – are involved in 79% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians.
•    Pedestrian fatalities in 2009 were down nearly 20 percent from 2001.

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Transportation Nation

If a Ticket-Happy Traffic Cam Doesn't Know What Time It Is ...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What better place than tech-savvy and traffic-choked San Francisco to work up a way to automatically ticket poorly-parked cars?  Cameras mounted on MUNI buses capture vehicles parked in transit lanes, loading zones and double parked cars, then generate citations.  Mayor Gavin Newsom pumped it up as a way to ease traffic and speed up transit.  But the plan seems to have failed in the most basic way. -- Collin Campbell

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Transportation Nation

Congestion Pricing Reducing Rush Hour Delays to Half of Previous Level

Thursday, August 12, 2010

(San Francisco, Casey Miner, KALW) It wasn't so long ago that carpooling on the Bay Area's bridges was free. Alas, those days are no more. As of July 1, tolls rose on all Bay Area bridges. Carpooling now costs $2.50; the regular toll is $6 (up from $4). It's an experiment with congestion pricing: Local transit officials are betting they can reduce traffic by making it more expensive to drive during the most crowded times of day.

The data is still coming in, but so far the plan seems to be working. On the Bay Bridge, rush hour delays have fallen by nearly half. There have been some other interesting results as well—for example, 12,000 fewer cars drove through the carpool lanes last month.

So where did all those commuters go? More this evening, on KALW News' Crosscurrents.

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Transportation Nation

Technology Is Key to Curb Deaths on Minnesota's Roadways

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This is Minnesota's most crash-prone stretch of freeway, a half-mile, westbound portion of Interstate 94 on the south side of downtown Minneapolis. Cars from multiple lanes and another freeway mix and merge where the roadway curves and dips, taking many rush hour drivers by surprise. (MPR Photo/Dan Olson)

(St. Paul, Minn. - Dan Olson, MPR News) The number of deaths on Minnesota's highways is at a six-decade low -- 421 last year -- due in large part to improved technology, experts say. There's a lot of technology just around the corner that will save even more lives: ways to alert drivers to "lane drift," gizmos that slow speeding drivers, shut down all cell phones except for 911 calls, or email parents at home if a young driver is violating Minnesota's graduated driver's license rules by being out too late or has too many passengers in the car.

More from MPR News.

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Transportation Nation

Yellowstone's July Attendance Through the Roof...Er, the Big Sky

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

(Billings, MT -- Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio) Yellowstone National Park officials today announced July set a new record for visitation -- at more than 957-thousand people. That's the largest number to ever visit the park in any month and comes on the heels of a new visitation record for June.
It's also the first time in Yellowstone's history that the number of visitors for the first seven months of the year has topped the 2-million mark.

Yellowstone officials are struggling to cope with the record traffic -- the story here.

Photos here.

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Transportation Nation

Delhi Drivers Take to Facebook

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Delhi has quite the public buy-in for transportation.  Some residents volunteer to monitor the subway to help enforce rules.  Now, it's bringing its battle for traffic safety to Facebook.

According to this New York Times article, the Delhi Traffic Police (which have the rather enigmatic, if Debbie Gibson-esque, motto of "With You! For You! Always!") started a Facebook page a couple of months ago.   It was immediately flooded with residents' complaints, admonishments, and reports of traffic jams, as well as cell phone pictures of vehicles that, in their opinions, were flouting the law.

"Unauthorized Taxi Stand near Rohini (west) Metro Station red light...numbers of taxi causes obstruction to traffic.  Pedestrians are forced to walk on busy road, " is one typical, recent post. 

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Transportation Nation

Yellowstone, With Record Visitors, Struggles With Congestion

Friday, July 30, 2010

Photo: Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio

(Yellowstone National Park -- Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio) It's been a record-setting summer at the world's first national park.   In June Yellowstone hit 700,000 visitors, and July is also expected to shatter attendance numbers.

With gas prices off their all-time highs of two summers ago,  but the economy still clouded, AAA says driving vacations have become more popular this summer.

Because of  its rural surroundings most visitors arrive in Yellowstone by personal vehicle, whether that’s a car, pick-up pulling a trailer, or a recreational vehicle (RV).

Yellowstone officials say the world’s first national park wasn’t designed to accommodate large vehicles. Eleanor Clark is Yellowstone’s chief comprehensive planner. She says the roads are narrow and there’s no designated RV parking at the developed areas, like Old Faithful, leaving the big rigs no choice but to park in up to 10 parking spaces.

Narrow roads are also an issue when visitors spot wildlife. A lone bison bull grazing just off the road will cause visitors to pull over, when possible, or simply stop in the middle of the road to take pictures or video. Such a bison-jam (or it could be an elk, moose, wolf, marmot, or bear) can back up traffic for miles.

"Critter Jam" at Yellowstone National Park

Summer-time is also prime construction time in Yellowstone. It’s a never-ending task to deal with the frost-heaves, erosion from geothermal features, and crumbling asphalt that is routine maintenance in a high-elevation park. Large construction projects, such as the moving of a road across the Gibbon River between Norris Junction and Madison Junction, has meant travel delays of up to 30-minutes and closure of that section of road at night.

Richard and Debbie Leonard drove to Yellowstone from their home in Ocala, Florida.

Richard Leonard takes the traffic delays in stride.

“Every time we turn the corner it’s a ‘wow’ moment,” he says.  “I’ve been taking pictures all day long and can never get enough.”

Debbie Leonard adds when people come to the park they need to be patient, “If it says expect delays. Don’t get upset.”

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Transportation Nation

Is D.C. a Telecommuting Mecca?

Friday, July 23, 2010

(Washington, DC - David Schultz, WAMU News)  Numbers don't lie, but statistics often do. Take this one, for example:  Around 10 percent of federal employees across the country telecommute at least once a week, according to a survey released this week by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' Transportation Planning Board.

Ten percent - sounds reasonable, right?

That number is essentially an average.  And, as my college statistics professor was fond of saying, if Bill Gates walks into a bar, everyone in that bar suddenly becomes a billionaire, on average. In other words, averages can be misleading.

And that's especially true for this figure.

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Transportation Nation

A Bridge Floats Down the Hudson

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

flickr user: Pro-Zak (by-nc)

(New York, NY - Collin Campbell, Transportation Nation)  A 350-foot bridge floated into New York harbor under the cover of night this morning. It’s the replacement span for the Willis Avenue Bridge and was built near Albany and sent down the river.

New York City’s Department of Transportation assembled the bridge in Coeymans, New York to avoid the impact that construction

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Transportation Nation

Some Detroit Truckers say Financial Pressures Push them to Neighborhood Streets

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

(WDET, Detroit) Detroit's public radio station wraps up its series on trucks in residential neighborhoods talking to some truckers who say they can't afford NOT to stray from established routes.    Also in the series:   A multi-generational fight to keep trucks off residential streets.   Live in Detroit? WDET-FM is looking for your help in tracking trucks in residential neighborhoods.

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